Mar. 1, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward (42) Kevin Love and center (14) Nikola Pekovic against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 104-95. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Forwards And Centers - What The Wolves Can Learn From The Lynx

May 20, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (23) talks with Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson (32) and Minnesota Lynx forward Seimone Augustus (33) during the second half against the Phoenix Mercury at Target Center. The Lynx won 105-83. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Women reading this be proud! Guys, show some respect. The Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA are far behind compared to the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA. I’m not going to compare on who has the most championships (1 to nothing Lynx), but I’m going to dive into what certain Wolves players can do Lynx players do in the WNBA.

Most guys will say that we can’t compare the two becuase “they’re women and it’s obviously going to be easier for them”. Now, lets not be sexist here and understand that I’m not saying one team is better than the other because that’s impossible to do. However, when it comes down to it, the Lynx are the best among one gender of professional basketball, while the Timberwolves aren’t. I know the competition is different, the intensity is very different, that there are also more teams to go through in the NBA than in the WNBA. Nonetheless, there are still some things the Timberwolves can take away from the success of the Lynx.

Let’s first look into the forwards and centers:

Maya Moore and Derrick Williams

Feb. 29, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams (7) during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Both forwards were drafted in 2011 with Moore getting picked first overall by the Lynx and Williams getting picked second by the Timberwolves. In her first season in the WNBA, Maya Moore quickly took the hearts Lynx fans and tore apart the hearts of other fans. She was unlike any other forward in the league as she had the abilities to run the floor and also dominate on the inside. She can shoot the trey and she can make a tough lay-up. With that Moore ended the season by snagging the Rookie of the Year honors including a world championship in just her first year as a professional basketball player. For Williams on the other side, he had somewhat of an opposite year. He didn’t garner any awards aside from being named to the All-Rookie Second Team and earning some limelight during the 2012 NBA Slam Dunk contest in Orlando. Most of all, however, his team didn’t make it to the post season.

You may say that Moore had better teammates on her side than Williams, but looking at them individually, Williams has the potential to do what Moore does in the WNBA into an NBA stage. Last season, Williams averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds, and consistency has certainly been a problem for him. Throughout last season, we have seen glimpses of Williams shinning from his alley-oop dunks to his smooth jump shot. Then again, he can’t do that every single game. As a rookie most of all, that’s one thing you must do to be successful in the NBA unlike in college. Williams just hasn’t gotten there, while Moore is more than there already as she has become one of the best in her league.

When you look at both forwards you can see a similarity in their game and maybe in their looks. (Am I the only one who sees that they look somewhat alike?) Williams and Moore love to run and both can finish as well. Defense is neither one’s specialty as their size is more than needed on the offensive end as they can over power other forwards in their league. Unlike Moore, however, Williams doesn’t have that quickness yet and his comfortability in the professional stage isn’t present yet. At times when I look at Williams he seems not willing to play or just out of sync. For Moore, she is free flowing and very much into the game and very vocal with her teammates. Williams is soft spoken and his energy only comes out when he makes a play and not anywhere else. No wonder why this guy has been rumored multiple times to be traded. If he wants to get better, look at Maya and he’ll learn a thing or two.

Rebekkah Brunson and Nikola Pekovic/Greg Stiemsma

Apr 14, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) goes up for a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder center Nazr Mohammed (8) in the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Unlike Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx power forward Rebekkah Brunson is all inside and all power. With that, Brunson has won two WNBA championships, one with the Lynx and one with the now-inactive Sacramento Monarchs. Last season, Brunson helped the Lynx achieved their first WNBA championship in franchise history by averaging 10.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

This season Brunson is leading the charge for the Lynx in the rebounding category. Kevin Love is known to be the best rebounder on the Timberwolves and there’s obviously no one else that can do it better than him. However, the Timberwolves can’t only rely on him to do everything on the boards. It’s kind off annoying to see that Love is the only guy working inside the paint to snag the defensive rebound or give the Wolves a second shot opportunity.

This season, I will look for big men Nikola Pekovic, who silently emerged last season as the Wolves’ best center, and newly acquired Greg Stiemsma from the Boston Celtics. The two big men will need to look into the play of not only their All-Star, Kevin Love, but maybe also Rebekkah Brunson who is by far the hardest worker on the Lynx’ roster.

 As the season came to a close last season, Pekovic averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. For this season, I expect him to do more and maybe around 9 to 10 rebounds per game alongside Love. Brunson’s tenacity on the boards puts her well beyond her teammates in the rebounding statistics. Defensively, she was the second leading shot blocker for the Lynx behind Taj McWilliams-Franklin who is also a player the Wolves big men must look into as she is a great role player.

Coming out off one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, Greg Stiemsma has a lot of expectations coming into this season and by looking also into Brunson’s approach to the game with her all around defensive intensity, Stiemsma might be able to get out of his shell and become a much more intimidating defender.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Kevin Love

March 19, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) pulls in a rebound against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Minnesota Timberwolves won 97-93. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

For those of you who don’t know Taj McWilliams-Franklin, she has been in the WNBA for 13 years already which is pretty lengthy for any WNBA player. Taj, a 6 foot 2 center, has won 2 WNBA championships including 6 All-Star appearances and has averaged a consistent 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in her illustrious career. Having played for 7 WNBA teams all in all including 2 different championship squads, Taj has a good amount of experience and success. Kevin Love has only played in the NBA for 4 years and his status in the NBA is rapidly growing as he has safely established himself as the best power forward and rebounder in the NBA. Sorry Dwight Howard, I’m giving it to K-Love due to his shorter height yet double digit rebounding average.

There are multiple things Love can take away from Taj McWilliams-Franklin. First and foremost it’s consistency. Throughout her NBA career Taj has been a focal point for her team on both ends with her solid post moves and her determination to play defense and attack the boards. You can see Love doing exactly the same thing aside from the post moves of course as that is one thing Love still doesn’t have in his arsenal. If Love can consistently do what he does today throughout his NBA career, he would look more like Taj in the WNBA, however, with a much higher praise due to him being “the guy”. Taj was rarely “the woman” for her team but has always filled the supporting role and Love can look at that by learning that at times he doesn’t need to be the guy to do it all. Much like the Lynx, their leadership and scoring may be headed by guard Seimone Augustus, last year’s Finals MVP, but the adversity and pressure isn’t only on her. Furthermore, she isn’t the only one to answer it.

Love has a brighter future ahead of him and his game needs to stay consistent or better grow, but not forgetting his teammates, and soon enough, like Taj, he’ll end up with a world championship … hopefully it’s with the Timberwolves though.

Part 2 (Guards) of this article would either come out later today or tomorrow. 

For more NBA analysis and opinions check out Theon’s general NBA blog, THEONBA

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